Friday, June 16, 2006

Never tell me the odds!

I am, as you will quickly ascertain, back to a more upbeat take on things today versus yesterday, although I didn't think that yesterday's was that dark to begin with. You post one little statement of doubt and worry and the next thing you know, your mom's calling you all worried and people are concerned. Let me tell you, if I get concerned for real, it won't be ambiguous*.

Recently Maggie and I were processing some paperwork at home and we found the racing form, er, statistical breakdown of results for extremely premature babies at the hospital where young Woody resides. This sheet was given to us while Maggie was in the antenatal unit so that we could be prepared for various bad outcomes (although I think she took it more as 'keep that baby inside you or else'). This sheet, which breaks down the probabilities of various things like survival and various types of disability rates, put the odds of a 23 week baby of surviving without major disability at something like 14% (this site puts it at 5 to 10%). In fact, let me break down a brief list of bad things that we have been told by doctors since Maggie has been pregnant.

  • Woody's 'viability date' was May 20, a full eight days after he was born.

  • One of Maggie's doctors was going over possible outcomes upon her entry to the hospital. The options for Woody were mostly about how it would be good if Maggie could hold out, but upon being asked about what happens if she had to deliver before the 24th week he answered "disaster."

  • On the day of delivery, the doctor came in to talk about test results. I asked, "is everything going to be okay?" The blunt answer was "no."

  • The day before the emergency c-section, I was given a tour of the NICU just in case Maggie deteriorated. The doctor giving me the tour told me that "many of the tiniest preemies just can't even be intubated, so let's hope she can hold out a while longer, because there's a pretty big risk he wouldn't survive that."

  • Superlatives: Woody is Maggie's doctor's earliest ever surviving baby (after many decades of practice); Maggie is the earliest HELLP/severe preeclampsia patient he saw; rumor has it that Woody may be the youngest gestationally born baby currently in the hospital; and he certainly is the smallest baby in either of our families, ever.

  • As many as 25% of micropreemies get potentially fatal brain bleeds. More than that have some sort of bleeds.

The list goes on and on, I assure you. As the title of today's post references, I have long felt like Han Solo in the Empire Strikes Back, who, being told that the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field were 3,720 to 1 snapped back "never tell me the odds." I have long since accepted that Woody will need multiple miracles to be alive, much less normal (whatever that means...). But then again, why not him? He's certainly had a number so far.

Woody has tolerated the mini-wean on his pressures well. He showed very marginal blood gases right after the switch, but the followup taken last night showed significant improvement. I am confident that this means that he just needs to be given a little time to adjust to pressure changes, and that he can make some positive strides in the vent settings. He also has handled the extra digestive supplements they give him, and I think this will help him get past the scariest of his problems.

*Some people, like my friend Jared, have told me that kids are very sensitive to their parents' worry and that being scared around him does no good at all. I really appreciate the concern on this and it's been a consideration. I keep my worries close to the vest while at the hospital, unless I'm making a nuisance of myself to the staff. Woody seems to appreciate my presence, and I can usually watch his oxygen sats increase and his heart decrease if I talk or sing to him. I just wish I could play with him more and that he wasn't so fragile.


At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Heather Pieper-Olson said...

Since it appears that we are into quotes right now, and since I am a firm believer that Woody has already and will continue to have miracles happen to him every day, I thought I would share a few thoughts on miracles:

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." - Albert Einstein

"Where there is great love there are always miracles." - Willa Cather

"Don't believe in miracles - depend on them." - Laurence J. Peter

"In order to be realist you must believe in miracles." - David Ben-Gurion

So, Nathan, you go ahead and believe that miracles can and will happen. You are in good company.

At 4:40 PM, Anonymous jared said...

**But then again, why not him?**

Exactly. People tend to ask "why me?" when confronted with adversity, though I prefer to ask "why not me?" I can hop with the best of them!

As for odds, remember that when faced with an underdog's chances, a win becomes a monumental victory in terms of reward and esteem.

I like your list of "verses" Ms. Olson - miracles certainly are happening.

At 8:27 PM, Anonymous Grammie said...

I read somewhere that a parent's job is always to hope, and I think you do have to regard finding reasons to hope as a daily assignment. But you can only do it one day at a time. Life IS always a miracle, and little Woody exists to teach us the that life is a sacred mystery.

I pray always for him. It seems to me that a baby who's already had so many miracle must be destined for great things!

I love you all!

At 10:32 PM, Blogger Augmented Brain said...

C3PO said the statement leading to Han's outburst.

Seems like doctors are sometimes like tin soldiers too.

Don't listen to 'em. But rather, listen to the HHW. :) If you're going to listen to something with initials, make them important initials.


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